These wood statues are a one of a kind pair, hand carved by the artists of West Africa.
This is a Mami Wata statue from the Baule
people of Ivory
Coast. Mami Wata or mermaid is a popular goddess in Africa and diaspora
representing the water spirit. This sculpture shows the spirit in one of its
popular forms: as a woman-fish hybrid, emerging from the water and skimming
the waves bearing a basket of wealth.
The water spirit legend includes the belief that she brings prosperity and fruitfulness. Therefore, she is commonly depicted as carrying a basket of wealth and with children alongside. The superstructure of a little mermaid atop the basket is a reinforcement of this belief. The little boy bearing a horn beside the mermaid is also part of the belief that the water spirit represents fertility. This boy also represents an announcer heralding the coming of the mermaid as she emerges from the water.
The fishes carved on the two faces of the basket identify the link between the spirit and the human world and are one of the symbols of the deity. The water spirit is renowned to be beautiful. In fact, while some legends describe her as a representation of chastity, others ascribe to her the quality of supreme beauty and seductress. Whichever legend is spoken of, it is commonly agreed that the water spirit is so comely to behold that no earthly woman could compare and no man could resist. Women who are uncommonly beautiful are often called Mami Wata or mermaid in a nod to the absolute loveliness of the water spirit.
This beauty is also represented in this sculpture by the rosy cheeks and full breast and even a pout. The water spirit’s profound beauty is likewise shown with her long hair, reaching down to her tails and tightly braided. Therefore, joining the arms of the braided hair to the tail is the sculptor’s way of representing this belief. A subtler belief is the representation of the braided hair in three branches which joined the tail.
Belief in the Mami Wata and her ability to impact wealth and give children to barren women was popular in West and Central Africa. The common consensus described her as beautiful and powerful and in some parts, she had cults dedicated to her worship. While the spirit is popular across different African cultures, the sculpture above bears the unmistakable marks of Baule art form.
Height: 58 inches
Width: 14 inches
Depth: 14 inches
Weight: 34 pounds
Origin: Baule Tribe - West Africa
Care: Mainly for indoor use. Dust as needed.
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